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U.S. Surpasses 2 Million Solar Installations, and We’re Just Revving Up

Massachusetts has proven itself to be a solar leader for years. One could argue the Commonwealth’s policies and practices have influenced other states because the country is rapidly working towards a similar goal: to become a world leader in renewable energy generation. Three years ago the nation reached one million solar installations, but in May, the U.S. surpassed two million installations. The installations produce enough electricity to power over 12 million homes.

Nearly half of the solar electricity generated was produced in California. Other solar leaders included Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Of the 50 states, Massachusetts was ranked 7th for solar energy production. From 2010 to 2018, the state produced 2,465 megawatts of solar energy, enough energy to power 416,697 homes.

animated gif of united states photo voltaic installs

Converting to solar energy is a movement, and people are beginning to notice what it can do for themselves and their communities. About 1% of the world’s total energy production stems from solar power, but in the U.S. alone, solar power generates 1.6% of the country’s total energy production. Across the country, over 90 cities, 10 counties, and two states have established 100% clean energy goals, incorporating all forms of renewable energy – solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. Six cities in the U.S. — Aspen, Burlington, Georgetown, Greensburg, Rockport, and Kodiak Island — have already reached their goals.

The industry’s growth comes from the falling cost of solar energy and the paybacks or incentives that homeowners and business owners receive. Some solar system owners use their credits as an additional source of income. Depending on your location and the installer you select for your PV system, those who invest in solar tend to get a quick return on investment (ROI). The average solar power system has a lifetime of 25-30 years, while high-efficiency systems often produce significant energy after 40 years. Residential ROI’s can take as little as five to seven years.

Solar growth and paybacks

Massachusetts annual solar installations and capacity

Since the passage of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) in 2006, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 50%. It rewards solar electric homeowners a 30% deductible from federal income taxes, but the ITC is going away. Here are multiple ways solar investors save money with solar energy:

Massachusetts awards PV owners with a 30% tax credit of the total project cost from federal income taxes. After installing your solar system, you’ll receive a credit when you file your income taxes the following year. However, the 30% Investment Tax Credit is going away at the end of 2019, so now is the best time to go solar to maximize your investment.

Net metering is a billing arrangement that measures how much energy you pull into your home, as well as how much excess energy you send back into the grid. Policies vary from state to state. Some states offer no net metering at all. In Massachusetts, if you are a National Grid, Eversource, or Unitil customer, you qualify to net-meter. Some homeowners use the money to pay other household bills, and some use the credited kWh on days their home isn’t producing enough energy to help zero out their bill throughout the year.

The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is an incentive program that offers a fixed compensation rate for the energy your solar system produces so that the lifetime revenue for your solar energy will be known from the start. Additionally, SMART offers incentives for battery storage. The additional incentive for installing a battery with your solar system helps pay for a significant portion of its cost. And to top it off, the state provides a personal tax credit of 15% of your total system cost, up to $1,000, when a Massachusetts resident purchases a solar system.

In additional to state incentive programs, some states grant tax credits to help ratepayers switch to solar. Massachusetts offers residents a tax credit of 15% of their system cost $1,000, whichever is less. This decreases the initial cost associated with your solar system installation.

State Solar Power rankings report grading scale

A 40-year triumph delayed

So why did the feat take 40 years to accomplish? Besides the years filled with common misconceptions and threats to pricing, analysts say that the milestone was late due to the drop in Tesla’s, or SolarCity’s, share – 650 megawatts in 2016 to 352 megawatts in 2017. CEO Elon Musk promised to create low-profile solar roof tiles at production volume by mid 2019. Tesla began accepting $1,000 deposits for solar tiles in May 2017, but the company wasn’t even close to mass production at that point.

elon musk solar tiles presentation

Musk said that ongoing delays were due to “the need for more testing.” But analysts drew their attention towards how Tesla dramatically changed their solar sales strategy in the years succeeding their merger with SolarCity. Musk invested $500 million of Tesla’s stocks into solar. But in 2018, Musk closed about a dozen SolarCity residential solar businesses, cut 9% of his workforce, dropped the door-to-door sales channel, and terminated partnerships with big-name retail companies like Home Depot. Tesla’s residential solar program continued to decline, dropping 38% in residential installations.

The company hoped to increase solar sales by cross-selling Tesla vehicles with residential solar and battery products. In April, Tesla was working on “version three” of the prototype, but hasn’t yet released a practical product for New England property owners. Now, Tesla is focusing on getting sales online or in Tesla galleries, showcases, and information centers. For people who do not need a new roof and want to install solar, traditional solar systems are definitely more accessible and come with a quicker return on investment than current solar tile technology.

The delay could have also stemmed from some of the largest rooftop solar installers in the United States who often give the solar industry a sour taste. Across the Boston area homeowners are becoming increasingly frustrated with failing Vivint solar systems and gruesome customer service. Local customer reviews reported them as “terrible,” “bogus,” and that Vivint even “makes the cable companies look great.”

A customer from Plymouth, MA had his solar panels installed by Vivint in July 2018. Nearly a year later and he’s still waiting for the system to work. Another customer had a similar problem in Dighton, MA. Six months after she signed a contract with Vivint she commented, “I still don’t have them on. All this while neighbors around me, with other companies, had theirs installed after me and are receiving solar benefits. After their refusal to remove them from my home I have no choice but to take legal action. ” Vivint’s 20-year contract keeps customers locked in while paying more for a sloppy solar experience. Lawsuits have been filed in New Mexico, Nevada, and California.

But data analysts indicate that the solar boom isn’t over yet. The economics for solar energy and solar storage remain dominant. Electric rates will rise alongside inflation, which means that ratepayers will be spending way too much on borrowed electricity. The average Massachusetts’s homeowner spends approximately tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on electricity over 20 or 25 years. But homeowners who use solar energy pay a mere fraction of that before incentives in the same duration of time.

It’s easy to see how switching to solar can generate massive savings for you in the long-term. Despite the government’s eventual removal of the Solar ITC, the solar industry is projected to reach three million installations by 2021, and four million by 2023.

Our Cleaner. Smarter. Solution.

solar panel array on roof

During the industry’s conquest towards two million solar installations, RevoluSun began its push in the solar movement. Massachusetts has the fifth highest electricity rates in the country, but solar provides substantial energy savings while contributing to a fast-growing green economy.

We started our journey in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2006 and expanded to Massachusetts in 2012. By 2015, our company grew significantly and project installations increased by 21%. By 2016, we experienced company growth yet again, completing 74% more projects than the previous year. Today, RevoluSun has completed more than 1,200 solar installations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Our mission is to fuel homes and businesses with reliable and sustainable power. We exceed industry standards with our full-service, locally operated team of professionals. We focus on providing customized design for aesthetics while supplying the highest efficiency solar products in the world. Our customers equate our name with quality installations, superior products, and excellent customer care. RevoluSun is committed to advance the solar industry and take care of your energy needs. Make sure when you go solar that you’re choosing the right company.

Without a doubt, the solar industry is growing. But with the reduction or elimination of the Solar ITC, you should consider going solar now to receive maximum benefits. Click here to get a comprehensive, no-cost in-home assessment to learn about how much money solar can save you.

Does Picking the Right Panels Affect Your Investment? SunPower vs. LG Solar Panels

The search for the perfect solar panels can seem complicated and exhaustive since there are an overwhelming amount of options. You might have gotten multiple quotes from solar companies that include popular panel brands like SunPower or LG, but what makes these brands different from one another and the rest of their competitors?

Sunpower solar panel versus LG competitor

LG, standing for Life’s Good, is a regular household name. LG engineers common household electronics from kitchen appliances to solar panels for consumers all over the world. SunPower, on the other hand, only manufactures solar products. Unless you’ve been researching solar panels or you’re in the solar industry, you might not have heard of SunPower.

Tier 1 bloomberg new energy finance energy quality list

The Bloomberg Tier 1 List is a compilation of qualifications for ‘bankability,’ or how likely a company is to be offered non-recourse debt financing by banks. Simply put, bankability is how profitable or stable a solar panel manufacturing company is. One qualification for bankability is zero-filed bankruptcies or insolvencies. Both SunPower and LG are financially-backed companies that follow specific guidelines to earn Bloomberg’s Tier 1 title.

Nonetheless, these manufacturers constantly compete against one other and standard panel brands. There are a number of distinctions between SunPower and LG panels that could impact a customer’s investment. Critical variables that shape project and investment outcome include, but are not limited to, panel materials, degradation rate, efficiency, warranties, and even the vetting process for installers.

Efficiency and Nominal Power

Solar panel manufacturers offer different efficiencies and wattage options that affect solar energy production. Solar panel efficiency is the portion of energy that can be converted into electricity via photovoltaics, or solar panels. The solar industry average for efficiency is 15-18%. Nominal power is the maximum power or wattage a solar system can generate. Nominal power can be measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW).

SunPower X-Series modules can achieve 22.8% efficiency, creating 60% more energy than other panels over 25 years. In terms of nominal power, X-Series modules range from 327 to 370 watts for residential projects.

Like SunPower, LG’s efficiency is above the industry average. LG’s panels can reach 21.1% efficiency. LG has lower wattage options than SunPower, ranging from 275 to 365 watts for residential projects.

Flexibility for the future

Because SunPower has the most efficient (and sustainable) solar modules on the market, the brand is able to provide more power for the same footprint. Under identical conditions, SunPower panels produce more energy than LG panels, so a customer might need more LG panels than SunPower on their roof to produce the same amount of electricity. Extra space on a roof from a SunPower system allows a homeowner to expand his or her system down the road to adapt to any lifestyle changes. A home’s energy consumption can increase from growing a family, working from home, building an addition, or driving an electric vehicle.

LG vs. Sunpower space efficiency on roof systems to allow for future expansion



The more kilowatt-hours worth of power you can fit on your roof, the more power your system will produce, and the more money you’ll earn from 
solar incentives. This translates to a larger and quicker return on your investment. A customer could save and earn more money by choosing SunPower over LG because of variables such as efficiency rate and wattage options.

Solar Cell and Panel Materials

The type of materials in solar panels vary between brands. Most high-performing panels are monocrystalline, the most efficient solar panel type on the market. Monocrystalline panels contain the purest form of condensed silicon, unlike polycrystalline panels, which are made from multiple pieces of silicon. All solar panels have cells, a back sheet, and a frame.

What’s in a SunPower solar cell?

SunPower X-Series panels are monocrystalline and built with Maxeon cells, the highest rated solar cells in the industry. Maxeon technology incorporates a solid copper backing and a light-trapping surface, producing more power and adding more durability to your system.

Sunpower solar cell diagram of silicone and copper components for strength and energy conservation

Microfractures in solar panels

Conventional solar cells crack and shatter when pressure is applied because of their thin silicon wafer design with metal lines or ribbons pasted on the front. These cracks, known as microfractures, can disable standard panels from producing energy. Because of Maxeon’s copper backing, SunPower cells crack but stay intact and are still able to generate powerCombining the cells’ strength with high-quality glass and frames, SunPower panels are immune to microfractures in real-world conditions.

 

What’s in an LG solar cell?

LG’s monocrystalline cells include films of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), a durable material often used in shoes and life vests. LG uses new Cello technology in NeON 2 panels. Cello standing for Cell connection, Electrically, Low loss, Low stress, Optical absorption enhancement, has 12 wires that replace ribbons found in conventional panels and other LG models. Some LG NeON 2 cells are bifacial, meaning energy can be produced on both sides of the cell, but are only available in larger panel models.

Temperature Coefficiency

Solar panels function differently over time depending on where they’re located. Like all electronics, solar modules are less efficient and productive in hot temperatures. The warmer the temperature, the hotter solar panels are on a roof so more electrons need space to move. This reduces the amount of voltage that a panel can generate, lowering its efficiency.

For every degree outside above 77 degrees Fahrenheit (F), electricity production will decline ever so slightly. SunPower’s temperature coefficient is -0.29 while LG’s is -0.30. This means that SunPower’s power output will decrease by 0.29% and LG’s by 0.30% for every degree over 77°F.

Temperature Testing

The industry standard for testing solar panels against heat involves placing them in a Temperature Cycling Chamber for 1,000 hours at 185°F and 85% humidity. This standard test examines whether a panel can perform well under typical warranties but does not guarantee long-term performance against real-world conditions.

Person in labcoat quality testing solar components in laboratory setting

SunPower’s temperature test examines panels at 13 times the industry standard. Under the test, X-Series panels are subjected to rapidly changing temperatures from -40°F to 185°F over several hours. This is designed to test their resiliency over two and a half decades. A conventional solar panel that is still up to industry standards can still fail under SunPower’s testing conditions due to its inability to expand and contract, causing the panels to break.

LG tests 4 times the industry standard, so the panels go through 4,000 hours at 190°F. To pass the test, LG panels must reach 18.8% efficiency at a 95% performance rate, also exceeding the industry standard. This is due to the EVA film used in LG cells, which helps the panel expand and contract during temperature changes.

Sunpower thermal resilience from plated copper foundation compared to a conventional cell


What makes SunPower so resilient to temperature changes?

In order to form a solar panel or module, each cell must connect to one another. Conventional cells use metal ribbons to make this connection. However, these ribbons do not withstand expansion and contraction well, causing microfractures. SunPower’s thick copper backing also allows for built-in strain relief so panels can expand and contract during temperature fluctuations. Differing from conventional modules, SunPower uses a stamped metal interconnect that is soldered to the edges of the cell. This is also designed to lessen the effects of thermal stresses.


Degradation

Factors like material durability and temperature coefficient impact various performance metrics like degradation. Degradation refers to the rate at which power is lost in a solar panel over its lifetime. Naturally, elements in nature weather panels over time. However, solar panel degradation can be extremely minimal, depending on the brand. Most manufacturers guarantee their modules to degrade no more than 0.7% each year for 25 years. After 25 years, conventional panels should produce about 80% of the energy they did at the time of installation.

All solar manufacturers test their products to ensure they can withstand elements in nature such as snow, wind, and fire. In New England, resiliency against hail matters. Standard testing involves evaluating panels against hailstones up to one inch in diameter falling at roughly 50 miles per hour. LG tests hailstones up to 28mm (1.10 inches), barely exceeding the industry standard, whereas SunPower tests their panels against golf ball-sized hail, about 42.67 mm (1.68 inches) in diameter.

SunPower and LG degradation rates

LG’s panels rank better than average, with NeON 2 degrading 0.6% per year and producing about 84% of Day 1 energy after 25 years. SunPower has the lowest degradation rate of any manufacturer, degrading only 0.25% per year and generating 92% of Day 1 production in Year 25. However, SunPower is backed up by field data and stress tests that suggest X-Series modules should have a total degradation well under 30% over 40 years. As a result, SunPower expects its modules have a ‘useful life’ of more than 40 years. A ‘useful life’ is a state at which panels produce at least 70% of their power from the time of installation. Over time, the differences in long term power output between SunPower and LG panels equate to significant savings for solar customers. Moreover, SunPower’s higher standards for hail can give Massachusetts residents greater peace of mind during the winter months.

Graph of Sunpower versus LG solar panel degradation rates over 25 years

Solar Warranties

A good warranty can make or break a customer’s investment from extreme weather, defective parts, or a bad installation. Depending on the vendor or contractor, enhanced warranties can be added on top of what the panel manufacturer automatically covers. All of our solar systems have a comprehensive 25-year warranty to ensure customers are protected head-to-toe.

Some pitfalls of standard panel warranties certainly degrade the customer experience. Under standard warranties, the customer often assumes the costs associated with replacing any defective panels. He or she is generally responsible for paying to ship new panels, packaging, shipping back defective panels, and sometimes even pay the manufacturer a testing fee if a defect is not found. On top of paying more than anticipated, the customer has a very short window to file a long written claim and present original physical proof of purchase.

With that being said, both SunPower and LG present sturdy warranties to their customers with some key differences. Warranties are generally composed of a product and installation warranty and a performance warranty.

Large solar array with one panel dirty from exposure to weather conditions

What is a Solar Product Warranty?

An industry standard warranty protects customers for 10 years and typically covers defective parts throughout that time period. This form of warranty covers the integrity of the panels and protects customers against problems with manufacturing defects, environmental hazards, and premature wear and tear. However, some manufacturers do not cover their products or pay for any shipments if something breaks during installation.

SunPower’s 25/25/25 warranty includes a 25-year Product Warranty that covers the entire system, from the removal of defective parts to the installation of new ones. This includes the panels, microinverters, racking, and repair 100% replacement costs for 25 years.

Historically, LG always offered a 12-year Product Warranty but has been forced to compete with top brands like SunPower with more robust warranties. LG has recently begun including a 25-year warranty for modules. LG will repair or replace a module if it proves to be defective during the 25 year period. This warranty does not cover the removal or installation of new parts, shipping costs or if anything happens outside of the factory.

What is a Solar Performance Warranty?

The industry standard typically guarantees 80% of Day 1 performance after 25 years. A solid Performance Warranty can bring comfort to a solar customer knowing that his or her system will perform well in the long run.

SunPower’s 25/25/25 warranty offers covers performance and the amount of power generated. SunPower modules will produce at least 98% power for the first year and will decline by no more than 0.25% per year for the following 24 years. Ultimately, the power output following the end of the 25 year warranty period should be 92% of Day 1 production. LG warrants that the first five years of module power output will be no less than 95% of the labeled power output. During Year 6, LG anticipates a performance decline of 0.4% in each of the remaining 20 years. By Year 25, the output should be at least 87% of the power generated during Year 1.

Aesthetic Options and Panel Sizing

A number of studies indicate that aesthetics can be a deal-breaker for homeowners when buying solar panels. If solar panels or system design negatively impact the visual image of a customer’s home or landscape, the likelihood of that homeowner going solar diminishes.

Does solar panel size matter?

Even size is a changing variable among solar panel brands. It may seem insignificant, but the dimensions of a customer’s chosen solar panels determine the system’s layout on the roof. Chimneys, piping, and skylights can hinder the design of a clean solar array. Depending on the municipality in which the project is installed, different zoning bylaws can also impact a project’s design.

SunPower X-Series and LG NeON 2 (non-bifacial) are both 60-cell modules that vary slightly in dimensions.

SunPower versus LG solar panel dimensions size

This would likely matter most when a customer is interested in the
72-cell module LG NeON2 Bifacial solar panels. This means that fewer modules would fit on the same roof space as 60-cell X-Series or standard LG NeON panels, impacting the design and layout of the solar system.

Are all-black PV modules available?

According to an MIT study, customers with concern for aesthetic “prefer black solar panels with rounded corners and even surfaces.” All-black PV modules are available that include all-black cells, framing, and a back sheet. The design camouflages into other dark surfaces through its color and anti-reflective glass that reduces glare.

SunPower X Series All Black PV modules installation in Massachusetts
Installation was done by RevoluSun’s own solar team using SunPower X-Series all-black modules.
SunPower X Series All Black Solar Panels LG NeON 2 All Black

Both SunPower and LG have all-black modules, but they differ in maximum nominal wattage available. SunPower X-Series offers 327-350 W all-black panels while LG NeON 2 Black offers 300-320 W panels. So if a minimalist look is important to you, go with SunPower for its higher wattage options and power capabilities.

Vetting Process for Solar Dealers

All manufacturers have different protocols and standards regarding to whom they sell their products. Understanding the vendor or company that you purchase or lease your solar panels from is crucial in securing your savings.

SunPower only sells to certified solar companies like us, an Elite Dealer. The manufacturer carefully chooses dealers and installers nationwide that meet or exceed their selection process. SunPower prefers to work with companies who invest in their communities and have expert knowledge of local jurisdiction and permit regulations.

LG Partner Portal LG Solar
A screenshot of the LG Partner Portal, where anyone can become an authorized LG dealer.

In contrast, LG isn’t too picky about who they do business with. LG sells to solar companies, but also to anyone who can obtain the “LG Pro Partner” title. Obtaining this title entails creating an account, taking a few short online trainings, and having the capital to buy the product. An LG Pro Partner does not need to be an established business nor have prior experience with solar. An ‘LG Pro’ can simply be a middleman without his or her own design, permitting, or installation teams, buying the product at cost and upselling to solar customers without contributing much or any expertise.

LG’s low standards for whom they sell to isn’t ideal for customers who want a reliable company. If a customer is set on having an LG system, then they should research the company they are doing business with. SunPower’s exclusivity to industry professionals is crucial for ensuring a superior project outcome.

Which Brand Will You Choose?

Choosing which solar brand is important in protecting your investment. There are reasons why someone choose either for their solar system, but SunPower blows LG out of the water with its panel durability, power output, inclusive warranties, and dealer vetting process.

Ready to go solar with SunPower? Please fill out this form. Still not convinced? See more reasons to choose SunPower.

4 Observations in the ‘Solar Plus Storage’ Market

There’s no doubt that “energy storage” is now a common buzzword associated with solar and renewables. Just from our customers alone, storage seems top of mind. This growing curiosity has inspired us to recently explore the future of the storage industry in Massachusetts.

Get Tesla Powerwall 2 with RevoluSun Massachusetts

Energy storage, often referred to as a battery system, is essential in making your home a powerhouse. Storage systems like Tesla Powerwall 2 protect your home from power outages, allows you to store your solar energy and/or take energy from the grid when rates are the lowest, and helps create a reliable grid system. Storage protects both you and your community. As a Certified Tesla Powerwall Installer, we’ve deployed several Powerwalls to Hawaii, Massachusetts, and, now as of recently, Idaho.

Powerwall is a rechargeable battery that stores electricity during the day when solar is plentiful or when grid electricity is inexpensive and delivers clean, reliable electricity when the sun isn’t shining or during a grid outage.

Because the U.S. storage market is expected to grow 12 times the size of the 2016 market, the topic has also been of high interest to other industry experts. Kelly Pickerel, Editor in Chief of Solar Power World, asked RevoluSun for our take on how solar installers are embracing storage and its market potential. Pickerel interviewed Brian Sadler, RevoluSun’s Vice President of Business & Project Development. Afterwards, we were able to reflect on our gleaned impressions of the emerging storage market and its quick evolution. Our impressions include changes to how storage is perceived, its market demand, and increased curiosity about going off the grid.

4 Impressions of the Solar + Storage Market


1. Storage is now seen as practical rather than just a luxury

RevoluSun Smart Home Tesla Powerwall
Powerwall installed by RevoluSun Smart Home.

Sadler explained that RevoluSun started receiving inquiries about Tesla Powerwall because it was seen as the newest toy for early adopters. Because energy storage has several practical applications, its market demographic has evolved quickly. Beyond the early adopters, most of our storage customers are drawn to both adding resiliency to their homes and engaging in a “power switch” between themselves and their utility companies. 

Storage is also becoming attractive to consumers in less solar-savvy states without strong net metering policies. Net metering occurs when a solar system produces excess energy not used in the home. The excess energy is automatically sent to the grid to be used by other grid-tied homes.

Happy RevoluSun Idaho customers, Jean and Sheldon B., added storage to their home to avoid changes in Idaho solar policy. “We wanted to get through any power outages and make sure we are prepared for any changes to the Net Metering laws in Idaho. With our Tesla batteries, we can use our solar on site and won’t be affected by future regulations. We felt it was important to be in the vanguard in solar power. This is really the future.”

Tesla Powerwall happy customers
Jean and Sheldon pictured with Powerwall in their Idaho home.

 

2. Local power outages spur battery demand

Tesla Powerwall protects your home or business from power outages

In the article, Sadler estimated that close to 50% of RevoluSun’s solar installations this year will include storage. More people are adding energy storage to their homes now than ever before. This will continue to rise due to intense weather-related incidents propelled by climate change, increased demand for solar, and the appeal of decreasing their dependence on their utility company or even going off the grid.

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents who depend on an outdated grid lose power every year. Energy storage enables homeowners to control their energy supply sustainably when their utility grid is down.

3. “Energy independence” is appealing to homeowners

Solar and storage allow you to be energy independent from your utility. This means that, when you pair your solar system with storage, you will not have to rely on the grid for power when solar energy is less available. Also, in times when the utility’s grid is down, your home will still have a source of power.

The term “off the grid” refers to living and powering your home without reliance on your utility for power. Off-grid homes require alternative power options like solar energy and energy storage like Powerwall.

Tesla Powerwall energy storage off the grid


I want solar and storage. Should I go off the grid?

The economics of solar make much more sense when a solar customer is still connected to their utility company. This means that you should not go off the grid if your main motivations for going solar are the financial benefits.

Technically, during a power outage, solar and non-solar customers are off the grid simply because the grid is down. However, in all other cases, the connection to a utility company enables communication between your home’s meter and the grid. In order to receive financial compensation for your energy, you must be connected to the grid. This allows your home to be a “distributed generation site,” according to Sadler. Plus, you can always use the grid as your backup, especially if you do not have energy storage.

4. Some states now incentivize energy storage

Pioneering Minds Energy storage Massachusetts

In June 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) announced a statewide goal of 200 megawatt-hours worth of storage by 2020. The plan, called The Energy Storage Initiative, aims to make the state a national leader in the storage market with a $10 million commitment to support Massachusetts energy storage companies and create policy to foster storage deployment.

Massachusetts is just the third state to incentivize storage. Other states with energy storage initiatives include, but are not limited to, Nevada, Maryland, California, and Oregon.

If you purchased a solar system and/or battery and you are connected to a utility company in most areas of Massachusetts, you are eligible for federal, state, and local financial incentives. These incentives include:

Federal incentive: Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC)

The Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC), also referred to as the solar investment tax credit,  is one of the most important initiatives involved in the expansion of solar nationwide. The ITC is a 30% tax credit on the full cost of installing a solar and/or battery system on a residential or commercial property.

In order for your battery to be eligible for the tax credit, your storage system needs to be charged by clean energy. If you purchased solar in the past and wanted to add storage now, you would be eligible for the tax credit. Storage without a renewable energy source is not currently incentivized.

However, 2019 is the last year that homeowners can take advantage of the 30% tax credit. To be guaranteed full tax credit, it is imperative for customers to take advantage of the current federal incentive program.

State incentives: The SMART Program and tax credit

The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program is an incentive program that offers a fixed compensation rate for the energy your solar system produces so that the lifetime revenue for your solar energy will be known from the start. Additionally, SMART offers incentives for battery storage. Combined with the 30% tax credit, the incentive for solar plus storage helps pay a significant portion of the cost.

The program has a declining block structure so that as each block fills up, the incentives and capacity of each block decrease. For example, Block 1 under SMART allows solar customers to take advantage of 100-percent of the SMART incentive available and is capped at 200 megawatts worth of solar installations. However, after that block fills up, incentives and capacity of the following blocks decline. he longer you wait to go solar or add storage, the less money you save and earn.

Additionally, the state provides a personal tax credit of 15% of your total system cost, up to $1,000, when a Massachusetts resident purchases a solar system.

Local incentive: Net Metering

When a solar system overproduces energy, it sends the excess energy back to the grid through a process called net metering. Net metering allows you to generate savings on your electric bill for every excess kilowatt-hour you produce each month.

Your solar system is expected to overproduce during the summer months and underproduce during the winter months. However, this doesn’t mean that your electric bill in the winter will be high. Net metering credits roll over each month, allowing your solar energy produced in June to be used in November. Net metering works like rollover minutes on your phone bill. If you have 100 minutes each month and only use 60 minutes in March, then those unused 40 minutes will roll over in April, giving you 140 minutes to use. This enables you to pay a reduced electric bill (or none at all) even during the times when your system produces less energy.

Hear from our Powerwall customer

Tesla Powerwall 2 customer testimony review happy customer Massachusetts

Tom, one of our Powerwall customers, is delighted about the functionality of his new energy storage system. Powerwall stores excess solar energy produced during the day to use at night when his system isn’t producing energy. Powerwall also automatically guards Tom’s energy supply when a storm is coming. Whether the grid goes down for hours or just a few minutes, Powerwall maintains power in Tom’s home. No matter the weather or event, Powerwall will protect his home for years to come.

Get Energy Storage from RevoluSun

Powerwall is the top energy storage system on the market due to its smart features and safe design. If you are considering going solar or if you already have solar, adding energy storage is a good next step. By acting soon, you can still claim the generous state and federal incentives for installing a solar and a battery. Let us help you achieve your home energy goals by filling out this form.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

So, you’ve heard a lot about solar energy but you’re still not quite sure how it works. Understanding the intricacies of solar is helpful in knowing why you should go green. We’ve taken the liberty to break down some of homeowners’ most pressing questions about solar energy, from the components of a typical solar installation, to how you can get paid for the energy your system produces. 

How do solar panels work?

What’s in a “solar system”?

There are several components that go into building a solar system. The most basic elements include mounts and flashing, racking/railing, conduits and wiring, solar panels, and inverters.

Mounts are secured onto the surface of the install site, typically a roof, as a foundation for the system. Aluminum flashing, used to stop water from leaking into the roof, is installed by lifting the shingles and inserting the flashing underneath them. Racking is fastened on top of the mounts where they will secure the panels. Next, solar panels are attached, with adequate support from the racking and mounts. Wiring is then run throughout the panels to power the solar system. RevoluSun completes the system wiring from inside the home (typically in an attic or crawl space), to ensure no ugly wires or conduits are visible whatsoever.

In most cases, conduits are provided to house the wiring to ensure the wires can safely run from the system down into the main service panel. Lastly, solar inverter(s) are installed on the outside or inside of the home, typically in the garage or basement. The solar inverter is responsible for converting the energy produced from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) that can be used as electricity in your home.

What are solar panels made of?

Solar panels contain a number of elements that allow them to harness the sun’s energy. These materials include silicon solar cells, metal frames, a glass sheet for casing, standard wiring, bus wires, and plexiglass. Plexiglass is used as an extra precaution to protect the solar cells. In order to maintain efficiency, an insulation sheet is installed to keep the solar cells cool and reduce humidity within the panel. The cooler the panel, the quicker it can process sunlight into energy. Like all electronics, solar works slightly more efficiently in cooler climates.

Solar Cell
Taken from electrek.co.

Three types of solar panels

Despite the fact that many panels include the same components, there are still different types of panels. Currently, there are three types of solar panels on the market: amorphous, monocrystalline, and polycrystalline.

thin film, mono silicon, and poly silicon solar panels
Taken from cleanenergyreviews.info.

Amorphous panels are the cheaper and less efficient modules within the industry, made of silicone and steel. Polycrystalline solar panels are easily identifiable by their noticeable blue coloring. These panels are much more efficient than amorphous panels but require more space than monocrystalline panels. Due to their higher silicon purity, monocrystalline panels are more efficient than the others. Thus, monocrystalline panels have become the most popular choice, as they are extremely efficient and take up the least amount of roof space.

Manufacturing solar panels versus burning fossil fuels

Some people believe that the manufacturing of panels is bad for the environment, but it’s not even a fraction of the impact of burning fossil fuels. Although some greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere during the production of solar panels, it is less detrimental to the environment than using other energy sources, such as coal and gas. Fossil fuel extraction and consumption is responsible for a major portion of all greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, fossil fuels produce 100 grams of CO2-equivalents per kWh of electricity formed, while solar power only emits 10 grams of CO2 per kWh, meaning fossil fuels yield at least ten times more CO2 than solar panels. Plus, once they are assembled there are no hazardous emissions, unlike the processes involved with extracting and burning fossil fuels.


How do panels generate electricity?

A whole solar system is able to capture the sun’s rays and turn them into usable electricity for your home.

First, sunlight radiates photons, which are invisible energy molecules. These photons are then absorbed by conductive layers that house electrons. The photons then collide with the electrons, knocking them free of their atoms. Next, these electrons move through the conductive coating and enter the solar cell. Then, when positive and negative sides of a cell interact, they form an electrical current. When the electrons move throughout this circuit, they begin to produce electricity. This movement of electrons happens in each cell and there are several cells that make up each panel. Multiple panels circuited together, create a solar array. Thus, the more panels, the more cells, meaning the more electricity for your home.

how solar energy works
Taken from canstarblue.com.au.

The solar inverter then takes DC electricity and turns it into AC electricity that can power your home. Solar inverters are essential in turning solar energy into electricity. Their largest task is to convert direct current, that has been produced by the solar panel, into alternating current, which can then be used to power your home. RevoluSun primarily uses the SolarEdge Single Phase Inverter. However, SunPower AC panels include an Enphase microinverter on the back of each panel that acts as a SolarEdge inverter would, eliminating the need for a standard inverter.


How do I earn money for the energy my system produces?
National Grid Electric Bill with Solar energy solar panels

Saving money is the largest motivating factor for those looking to install solar panels. A big part of saving money with solar is the ability to bank excess energy your solar system produces back to the electric grid. Throughout the day, your solar system is producing energy. This electricity is automatically stored in your utilities’ electrical grid in the form of solar credits. Each time you use electricity in your home, you utilize those credits and apply them to your electric bill. Ideally, your system will produce enough power in the spring and summer months to provide enough credit to eliminate your bill in the winter months.

When your solar system generates extra solar energy, your utility grid will provide an on-bill credit. This process is referred to as net metering. How much your utility company will pay for your unused solar credits depends on your utility company and the state you live in. In Massachusetts, utilities provide credit remarkably close to the electric retail rate.

Solar Incentives- Richie Bonney

National Grid Electric Bill with Solar

Richie Bonney, our Vice President of Project Development, went solar over a year ago and is experiencing tremendous savings. Richie’s system produces enough energy every month to sell back to the grid and offset his entire electric bill (right). Solar panel ownership allows the relationship between utilities and customers to flip so that the utility company credits solar customers for their energy instead of the customer purchasing energy from the utility. National Grid owes Richie $254.10 for the excess energy that was automatically sent back to the grid.

SMART Program

In addition to net metering, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has unveiled the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. The SMART program allows solar owners to receive money, in addition to their electric bill credit, for their solar production at a set kilowatt-hour rate. SMART is a declining block system. Once Block 1 fills up, solar customers will be enrolled in SMART’s second block and so on. There is a 4% loss in incentives as you move down the blocks, estimating that the average customer who doesn’t get into Block 1 will lose an estimated 8-10% in savings. Currently, National Grid customers will receive around $0.11 per kWh of electricity produced, while Eversource clients collect about $0.14 per kWh. Those enrolled in SMART will receive a monthly check with their solar incentives.  


How do solar panels save me money?

There are many components to solar that help saves money, besides just selling excess solar energy back to the grid. This includes a federal tax credit, increased property value, and decreased electricity bills.

Last chance for the 30% Federal tax credit

Currently, U.S. residents are entitled to a 30% tax credit on the amount they pay to own a solar system. Renewed in 2015 by Congress, this tax credit has allowed countless U.S. residents to go solar. Yet, this tax credit might not be in effect for much longer. The current administration does not advocate for the tax credit and is seeking ways to cut down spending on renewables. This makes solar a pressing issue as time may be running out on large incentives. This year, 2019, is the last year that customers can take advantage of the 30% Federal tax credit. It is imperative to go solar before the tax credit expires since it is partly responsible for solar customers’ rather quick return on investments.

Congress Capitol
Taken from freedomworks.org.

Make your home smarter

Unlike other home improvement projects, solar systems add value to your property without tacking on an additional property tax. This makes your home more valuable if you ever decide to sell. Buyers are willing to pay an additional $15,000 for a home with the average-size solar system, compared to a similar home without a solar system. A low or non-existent electric bill is attractive to buyers. In a challenging market, solar panels can be the difference in selling your house or not, an added bonus that gives potential buyers a reason to consider your house over others as their next long-term home.

By going solar, homeowners save thousands on their electric bills. Solar customers are no longer at the mercy of the utility companies escalating prices. Electricity rates rise every year, but with solar energy, customers are no longer affected by these rising rate costs because they’re producing their own energy.

In addition to solar savings, there are many affordable options when it comes to financing your solar system and investment.


How do I go solar?

Our process for getting customers energized with clean energy begins with filling out this formOr, contact us if you still have questions about how solar energy works.

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